The Camino welcome in Hungary is a mixed bag, from hot to cold with everything in between. Our visits to the Pilgrim office in Budapest, and with Ferenc, the man responsible for establishing the Via Pannonia, were tremendous. I have called Ferenc on the phone since and he has helped me to arrange accommodation when the language made it difficult. 

We have moved beyond the wealth around Lake Balaton and are traveling through beautiful hilly countryside dotted with little villages. These are very early days for the Via Pannonia and many rural Hungarian respond to our greetings with only a long stare. Sometimes the stare borders on suspicious or fearful, as though they are wondering if we are homeless. The many barking dogs, thankfully tucked behind fences, are certain we don’t belong. 

Three years ago when a Taiwanese women made the pilgrimage, a local in a rural area called the police on the assumption that she was an unwelcome migrant. Her top-of-the-line hiking clothes,and an explanation of what she was doing, sorted things out and no arrest was made. In the rural areas I feel like I am the “other” in a way I have only felt in developing countries – far off the beaten track. 

There are also people who know about the route and are excited to meet and welcome us.The mayor of Sojtor, the town we are staying in tonight, is one of them. He has opened up the city owned hunting lodge at a pilgrim discount of about $21.00 Canadian each. We have the whole place to ourselves! 

With my last glimpses of Lake Balaton I said goodbye to my friend Joerg, who passed away on May 6. The day he died I was cycling by a huge running race and I could so easily imagine Joerg running strongly ahead of the pack. He was an amazing runner. It’s so hard to believe that the strongest one among us is now gone. I am imaging him continuing the race around the lake running with the breeze. He will be dearly missed; our thoughts are with his wife Julie.

We are at 308 kms with Gord averaging 28 kms a day. 

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